“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” – Rumi
I just finished reading a book called The Lost Prince, by Selden Edwards. It is a beautifully woven tale of that explores the edges of free-will and determinism, sanity and insanity, and collective and individual consciousness. The theme of archetypes is very present in the tale and Carl Jung is actually a character in this masterfully told historical novel. Archetypes are something I think about quite often. The term “archetype” originates from the ancient Greek root words archein, meaning “original or old” and typos, meaning “pattern, model or type”. The combined meaning is an “original pattern”.
Psychologist Carl Gustav Jung used the concept of archetype in his theory of the human psyche. He believed that universal, mythic characters or archetypes reside within the collective unconscious of all people. These patterns, once awakened, have the potential to mold and transform the individual consciousness, shaping our human behavior. He felt that these archetypes represent fundamental patterns that developed along with the evolution of human experiences. This is why we often see certain recurrent themes cross-culturally in our mythological stories, folklore and spiritual traditions.
According to Jung, all of us inherit the same archetypes, the same invisible patterns or motifs. These patterns are built into the structure of our psyche, similar to emotions, but they manifest through our particular personal and cultural experiences. Some examples of archetypes include the Hero, the Divine Child, and the Great Mother. Jung considered four archetypes as the most important – the Shadow, Anima/Animus, Wise Old Man/Wise Woman, and the Self. Although we can go through our lives without conscious awareness of these archetypes, it is often when we access them in a conscious way that deep transformation and healing can occur. Archetypes offer a context for our human experience and help us to connect to the sense of awe, wonder and curiosity that we so often lose in our modern world and in the busyness of our daily lives.
Here is a short clip with one of my favorite visionary teachers, Angeles Arrien, sharing on Archetypal Forms and Functions:
In my journey as a shaman and healer, I have found that working with these mythic themes creates a powerful context for understanding life and patterns of consciousness. One of the main reasons is that archetypes can be viewed from both the psychic and material perspective, affecting both our inner and outer realities. This is very much in line with the realm of shamanism – walking between worlds, bridging the seen and unseen, living in sacred space in each and every moment. As we become able to stay conscious of the unseen and move about in the world from that place of awareness, the door for new possibilities can emerge.
The archetype I have probably felt the most connected to in my life is that of the Wounded Healer. This is not uncommon for someone in a healing or helping profession. I have found that it is my personal journey of healing and transformation that has been the driving force in my life and ultimately, in my work with others and the world. Perhaps the severity of some of my life experiences, one of which included growing up with a mentally ill parent, was so strong a catalyst that I had no choice for this to be my path. Had I not chosen to dedicate my life to the work of healing, I may not have found my way out of the darkness that I witnessed at a young age. And yet, at this point, I feel clear that I did not choose the path, it is the path that chose me.
Over the past eight months I have been participating in a writing project entitled Heal My Voice. The mission of Heal My Voice is to empower women and girls to heal grief, loss, and trauma, and reclaim their inner authority, so they can discover and use their leadership skills in their homes, communities, and the world, by developing collaborative projects that encourage leadership, community building, and the reclaiming of each woman’s voice. A major part of this process is birthing a story we wish to share with the world, which will be published in a collection of stories from our group. It has been an honor and a joy to participate with such a powerful and courageous group of women on this path of exploration.
The journey has been a very cathartic one, even more so than I had imagined before we began. Going into the process I held the intention of writing a story about how my childhood experiences of growing up with a mentally ill parent were the catalyst for my becoming a shaman. I really had no idea how deep I would need to go to tell that tale. It is a story I have wanted to share for some time, one that truly defines who I am and how I came to be living as a shaman in a modern world. And, as this project is coming to completion, I am finding that it is just the beginning of my writing on this subject.
I have always known writing was a part of my life. I began writing poetry and journaling as a young adult. It was often fueled by much of the reading I did. I often read a book a day as a teenager. It was one of my saving graces and I found losing myself in the written word, whether a tale of fiction or through learning about the world and myself, was a way to escape the horrors of my immediate experience. My own writing became a way to express myself when I had no voice or other way to express to the world what I was experiencing. Writing was something that I could share or choose to keep hidden. Like many other writers, for much of my life, I chose to keep it hidden.
When I started The Heart of Awakening Blog this past year, I envisioned writing quite frequently. I had a great run with May is for Metta. I have shared this process in other ways, but I am so happy that it emerged here as a resource that is available for anyone to use to begin or explore a meditation practice focused on loving-kindness and compassion. This practice has been one that has changed my life and I come back to it again and again. I have found that since May, people come to May is for Metta everyday from all over the world. It is something people are searching for – a way to practice loving-kindness, for themselves, for others and the world. I have come to view loving-kindness and compassion for oneself as the key to healing and transformation both personally and collectively.
Coming from an environment where criticism and shaming were extreme taught me to be incredibly harsh with myself. For many who have suffered from various forms of abuse, trauma or a critical parent, it is not uncommon to continue to “abuse” ourselves emotionally with a ruthless inner critic or perhaps, even physically through addictions or lack of self-care. It is something I have made tremendous progress with and yet, I continue to work on it today. It is so easy to fall into a pattern of feeling not good enough, not worthy enough and having a sense of being a failure. I have learned through my shamanic work that these are not just personal issues but what we can consider to be core human issues. Also, it is interesting to note that self-criticism is particular strong in American culture, often fueling the need for outward or material success and leading to repetitive patterns of self-sabotage and discontent.
Probably, at the top of the list of core issues for much of humanity is a sense of unworthiness. This may come from the original wound of separation from the creator, however one views that energy, i.e. God, Creator, Spirit, The Universe. This core wound or rather, the illusion of it, continues to manifest in our current life and past life experiences as well. From a shamanic perspective, we can view all of our relationships, and particularly those with our parents or those closest to us, as a reflection of this original wound. How this manifests will vary based on our personal experiences but the dynamics that develop reflect what we have come to understand or work through in this lifetime, both personally and collectively. This is one of the reasons archetypes can be so beneficial as they give us a framework for understanding and working with our experiences.
My mentor, Shaman Ross Bishop, has been instrumental in my understanding of this concept, which has become a foundation of my life and my work as a shaman. In his post on Understanding Life, he explain this concept as follows:
“Because of your inner uncertainty and vulnerability, when you left “heaven” you felt as though you had been cast out into the cold, uncaring vastness of The Universe. You concluded that you had been abandoned, unwanted, unworthy and unloved. None of that could be true, they were completely impossible, but your Misunderstanding was profound and deep. This was intended. Your feelings of unworthiness and unlovability would serve as the pivots around which your earthly learning experiences would evolve. They would form the foundation for the learning you needed.”
I was working with a client recently who clearly identified a sense of unworthiness and rejection from God as the issue she felt was keeping her stuck in unhealthy relationships, both personal and work related. We journeyed for her to meet with the Creator. She asked God why she had to suffer so much and why he had abandoned her. The message that she so clearly received was that it was a misunderstanding. Although sometimes there are words in this type of experience, it is really the energetic imprint of connecting with the creator that provides the answers and the healing to the core wound of separation. It is so simple and yet, so profound what can happen in that moment of knowing that we have never been abandoned by God and that it was the illusion of separation that has kept us in pain and suffering.
I believe this experience and understanding is one of the great gifts of the Wounded Healer. It is believed that the wounded healer has the capacity to travel into the darkness to find the energy of light and understanding that brings forth the true healer. This archetype reveals that it is only by being willing to face our wounds and consciously going through them that we are able to find the blessings that lie therein. In many traditions it is held that shamans are the original wounded healers and as they have found their own path through the darkness to the light, they are then able to guide others on that path. Really this is a part of every person’s journey and yet, some are called more strongly to this path than others. This path has been the center of my journey in this lifetime.
I have found that it has been through being willing and allowing myself to go into my wounds and the deepest, darkest places within myself, that I have come to know and understand “The Misunderstanding.” This is an ongoing journey. Wounds are not static – they are continually unfolding and manifesting in various aspects of our lives. There are many layers to explore and as they emerge our wounds are teaching us about ourselves. Going through our wounds is a process of death and rebirth, as the old self “dies”, a new part emerges from the decay; and just as the phoenix rises from the ashes, we emerge into a new way of being, one of connection and wholeness.
As the Wounded Healer heals, there is an opportunity to become a healer, a teacher and a guide. It is in knowing the path through the darkness, learning how to connect with spirit and being willing to go to uncomfortable places that many may tend to avoid that provides a framework for supporting others on this journey. This is the foundation of my work as a shaman and as a writer I hope to embody that understanding as well. I wrote a dedication for my story in the Heal My Voice project, which feels fitting here:
“I write this story in honor of my inner children, the ones who were willing to travel into the darkness to find the light. The ones who walked through fire and instead of emerging charred and burned, transformed themselves into the light of illumination which carries me through this life, allowing me to be happy, whole and filled with love.”
I am hoping to be more present on the Heart of Awakening in 2013. As I step into this next phase of my journey, I hope to share more of what I have learned and to really honor the path of the Wounded Healer. My message for this year is to LOVE OURSELVES, all parts of ourselves and especially those that we don’t want to see or explore. Accept the journey of life as it unfolds with curiosity, wonder and awe. Know that even when there is the experience of pain and suffering, we are not alone – we were never alone and we are always supported. There is wisdom that comes from being exactly where we are and opening to all of the nooks and crannies of that experience – the joy and the pain, the happiness and the sorrow, and the light and the dark.
Stay tuned for Reflections Of A Wounded Healer: From Visionary To Victim, a presentation with Beth Terrence and host, Andrea Hylen, on Heal My Voice Radio on January 23rd at 2 PM EST and the release of the book, Inspired Voices: True Stories by Visionary Women, in February 2013.